Wednesday, August 26, 2009

My First Opinion Paper in my Womens Studies Class

Let me first start off by saying that I probably have a different perspective on whether or not equality has been achieved because I am an older student, and probably one of the oldest in this class. I am a forty-six year old woman that feels as if she has been caught between two worlds.

I well remember the times of the "bra-burning" and "get out of the kitchen" days of the early seventies. When I was a little girl I was initially raised to believe that I would one day become a stay at home wife and mother. That illusion was shattered as I watched my parents marriage falter and my mother had to attend nursing school in her thirties, while I was still in high school. I was encouraged to further my education but finances on a single mom being what they were, I entered the apprenticeship as an electrician at Norfolk Naval Shipyard instead of college.

When I went into the shipyard, women had only been allowed into the apprenticeship for four years. They were still a novelty on board Navy ships. Women were still not allowed to serve on board these ships if they were in the military unless the ship was a hospital ship or a tender. To say the least I caught hell.

Fast forward to now, and I left the Navy Yard almost twenty years ago as I was not happy in my job and switched careers. Women are shipboard now and they are accommodated but in reality the "old boy system" is still well in place.

My current career is still in a primarily male field of taxes and finances. It is irritating to have clients call, especially male, and ask me a question, yet still are not satisfied with the answer unless they speak to my male boss. I can hear it in their tone of voice and the way that they question me.

I also recently went out to lunch with some friends and their parents and the comment was made at one point by one of the older males that "a woman's place is at the stove". I almost choked on my scallop. I did not speak out at the time because I did not want to cause a commotion or make a scene, but I have went through this in my mind as to how I should have handled the situation. Part of me regrets not saying anything. Was my silence an agreement to his statement?

Another incident that reaffirms my belief that equality has not been achieved was the recent conversation that I had with my daughter regarding her pay at the law firm that she currently works at. She has been at her position for three years as a legal assistant. Yes, she started out as a cooperative education student, but she has been full time for eighteen months and she only makes minimum wage. She is also attending Tidewater full time and the firm well knows her drive to further herself but, when she inquired about her salary she was met with the response that the firm could not increase it due to monetary constraints. I wonder if she was male would it be looked upon the same?

My final reality check with equality was a recent comment made by another business aquaintence. Only three weeks ago, this person came by my house to speak to me about a question that he had regarding his small business. During the course of the conversation he asked about any "needs" that I had around my house. I did not get it at first. I thought that he was talking about home repairs. He was actually talking about sexual needs as he was well aware that my husband lived in a nursing home and I had been on my own for a year. Thankfully, we were sitting outside on my front porch and I very politely rebuked him. Why is it that in 2009, we as women still have to constantly be on our guard as to not send off incorrect signals?

I wish equality was there but I'm afraid that with all of the advances women and others have made in the last thirty years it only scratches the surface of how far we are yet to come. However, I do believe we are getting there and hopefully the generation after mine will have a much easier time. I do see signs of it as my brother, who is 38, has no problem with household chores and cooking. I know of other younger men that this seems routine for. Maybe part of it is they were raised by working mothers and had to learn.

Finally I was also looking at the Deparment of Labor website for statistics of women in the workplace in 2008. Women now comprise 46.5% of the workforce but unfortunately, the number one position of women are secretaries and administrative assistants, which is the lower paid positions and certainly not positions of power. Also women still only earn eighty percent of every dollar that their male counterparts earn.

I personally believe that I will not see in my lifetime true equality if ever. Hopefully, the march of time will continue to bring that about, especially as the "old school" generation are no longer around to hand their antiquated belief system down. I feel that it will always be there in some form or fashion. Perhaps, it always will be, because it is human nature to not open ones mind and think outside the box.

My paper ended at that point. This was simply an opinion piece that was posted on a discussion blackboard. I did not read others before I completed mine and posted. I did however, go back and read many after I had posted mine. Several things that I noted the first of which my opinion was by far the longest posted. Many others did make some good points in a short style but I was surprised that they were not longer with a little more thought other than the basic I think equality has been achieved or I do not believe equality has been achieved.

I also had to give and agree or disagree to another's post and again, my reply was lengthy although not nearly as lengthy as my original response. I wonder what my grade will turn out to be. I hope that I did make my point although there was much, much more that I could have said. We all know that there are times that I can ramble at the keyboard.

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